Guest Post by Cathryn Curoe, Aspiring PR Professional
According to my educational background, I seem to be drifting toward a career in Public Relations—a career I now fear entering thanks to author Ryan Holiday’s book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.
Holiday uses his book to expose the lowered standards to which many online journalists now hold themselves, whether consciously or subconsciously. It is difficult, however, to firmly decide where the blame for these lowered standards of news dissemination should be. Is it the blogger? Or is it something bigger?
News in this age of instant gratification is expected to be more than just accurate. It’s expected to be quick. Big stories no longer have the luxury of waiting till the morning paper to be reported; with the infinite Internet and blogosphere, these stories are now reported immediately, sometimes literally within seconds.
So what are the ethical implications of our insatiable need for timely news? The answer is the tumbling of long-established journalistic values, which, at their best, include the following: accuracy, confirmation, tenacity, dignity, reciprocity, sufficiency, equity, community and diversity. In our great need for speed, I would argue we tend to overlook most or all of these values—as readers, and possible news disseminators ourselves.
Holiday’s explanation his game of blog manipulation got me interested in doing some of my own exploration of online news sources to see if I can spot discrepancies on my own.
Turns out, I now question literally every single online post I see.
One particular article stood out to me, however, because of its hilarious irony. I searched for “media deception” and Bill Randall’s article from The Washington Times Communities, “Media lies and deception are destroying America,” popped up. It seemed promising at first—until the author pointed out different cases in which the media had allegedly manipulated a story and therefore lied to the American public.
Interestingly enough, this writer chose three political cases (TARP/Stimulus Bailout Funds, the Tea Party, National Debt Crisis) and cited media coverage with what can be assume to be a liberal bias. Each case has two sections: “How it was reported” and “The real truth.” I choose not to label myself as a Republican or Democrat. Yet I can still detect a conservative bias in how he describes the “real truth.”
And this brings me back to ethical writing and the journalistic values discussed in the text. I would argue this piece lacks equity (allowing sources of both sides to be represented equally), and also brings into question, once again, whether opinion has an ethical role in the news?
I am a firm believer in everyone having a right to his or her own opinions. However, they do not belong in a piece that does not clearly state its political/religious/social agenda to its readers. Choosing to write under a façade of neutrality is simply unethical manipulation.
I often fear that my career in PR will force me to face some of these difficult ethical decisions. I just hope I have the knowledge to know what’s wrong, and the strength to do what’s right.